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70 Syrian Rebel Groups Break with Main Opposition

Rebels in southern Syria say the National Coalition has “failed”, announce they no longer recognize the Western-backed group.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 10/17/2013, 5:44 AM

Rebels clash with Syrian government forces
Rebels clash with Syrian government forces
AFP photo

Rebels fighting President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime in southern Syria said Wednesday the main opposition National Coalition had “failed” and announced they no longer recognize the Western-backed group, reports AFP.

The video statement signed by nearly 70 groups comes after a group of key rebel groups in the north of the country announced their rejection of the National Coalition in late September.

“Having seen the failure of the political groups that claim to represent the opposition and the revolutionary groups... we leaders of the military and revolutionary groups in the southern provinces withdraw our recognition from any political group that claims to represent us,” a rebel spokesman was quoted by AFP as having said in the video.

The spokesman referred specifically to “the Coalition and its leadership”.

Filmed in an unnamed desert area, the video statement shows rebels dressed in army fatigues and holding up their weapons. Behind them is a banner with the mainstream rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) logo.

Speaking to AFP, the FSA’s political and media coordinator Louay Muqdad stressed the statement was not a rejection of the mainstream rebel force headed by General Selim Idriss.

“We saw the statement, and we will be in contact with the leaders of these groups,” Muqdad said.

“As for our brothers in the Coalition, they need to listen carefully to the voice of the people inside Syria, to those who are paying with their blood in Syria, to the revolutionaries on the ground,” he said.

“The revolutionaries’ demands must not be taken lightly,” he added.

The fractured Coalition, representing the opposition abroad on the political front with Western backing, has gone through several crises over the course of Syria’s 31-month war.

Based outside Syria, its inability to secure weapons and much-needed humanitarian assistance for residents of the strife-torn country have raised the ire of opposition activists and rebels for many months.

Rebels fighting Assad’s troops have made significant progress in recent months in southern Syria, particularly in Daraa province, strategically located on the border with Jordan and near Damascus province.

Muqdad said “the liberation of Daraa is the key to liberating Damascus. Everyone knows that, even Bashar Al-Assad knows that”.

Several days ago, a key group within the opposition Syrian National Coalition said it would not attend proposed peace talks in Geneva and would quit the Coalition if it participated.

The president of the Syrian National Council, the biggest member of the opposition Coalition, said that it was impossible to carry out negotiations given the suffering of people on the ground.

These cracks within the rebel groups have escalated into full-blown fighting as the more moderate rebel groups are being attacked by jihadist rebel groups.

The 13-member Islamic Front for the Liberation of Syria, which split off from the Syrian National Council opposition force, declared the city of Aleppo to be an independent Islamist state months ago.

Members of the jihadist rebels groups have committed atrocities during the Syrian civil war, including publicly beheading a Catholic priest who was accused of collaborating with Bashar Al-Assad’s regime.

In July, Syrian rebels linked to Al-Qaeda killed a senior figure in the Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA).

In addition to all the above, there have also been numerous clashes between Arab rebel groups and Kurdish militias in the north of the country.